Christos Nikou’s quietly accomplished first feature finds deadpan comedy in a programme designed to forge new identities for the victims of an unexplained amnesia epidemic.
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The world is experiencing an epidemic of sudden, unmotivated and incurable amnesia. Our hero, Patient 14842, agrees to enter a programme called New Identity, in which unclaimed victims of the existential plague are given new names and homes and required to undergo and document daily exercises intended to forge new memories. 14842’s fondness for apples seems to be the only vestige of his former life, reflected in the film’s title.
There’s deadpan, Kafkaesque comedy in his joyless and mechanical, yet diligent, endeavours to follow his doctors’ instructions to loosen up and have fun. Ride a bike! Go to a nightclub! Attend a fancy dress party and make a friend! All these missions are duly Polaroid-ed and stuck in an album of fresh memories, to be inspected and critiqued by his minders. As the treatment progresses, the tasks become more elaborate, perilous and outlandish. Does Patient 14842’s future happiness lie with a fellow amnesiac following the same directives? Is a New Identity really the solution to his problems?
Christos Nikou’s elegant, wry and ultimately moving puzzle of a film is an inventive meditation on memory, identity and grief. It lands firmly in the tradition of the high-concept absurdism of his compatriot and one-time collaborator Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster NZIFF 2015, The Favourite), though its low-key look and feel is more reminiscent of Aki Kaurismäki. Dare we say, an unforgettable first feature. — Andrew Langridge